Plants and the chemicals they make: caffeine.

I am here, writing this post while drinking my morning coffee, so I can’t pretend to be impartial.

How safe is it?  Very: it is used to stimulate breathing in premature babies.

What can it do for your skin?

Figure. Caffeine.

 

The dry data

The purine alkaloid caffeine is a major component of many beverages such as coffee and tea. Caffeine and its metabolites theobromine and xanthine have been shown to have antioxidant properties.

Benefits

Caffeine decreases the risk of skin cancer promoted by UV irradiation, apparently by slowing down repair of DNA mutations caused by UV making it more precise and preventing mutations that may lead to cancer. Caffeine reduced the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer. A DNA repair gene  NEIL3, a gene belonging to the base excision DNA repair pathway, that encodes a DNA glycosylase that recognizes and removes lesions produced by oxidative stress, seems to be involved in this effect.

Caffeine also decreases the thickness of the subcutaneous fat layer by inducing lipolysis. This is an effect you may appreciate if you are trying to fight “cellulite”, a totally normal “condition”, caused by the combination of fat accumulated in tights and the loss of elasticity of the skin. Other beneficial effects of caffeine are as an analgesic adjuvant and activity against some viruses.  The “de-puffing” effect of caffeine may be mediated by the promotion of sodium export from the cell, which is followed by water loss. Caffeine may help with inflammation and psoriasis.

For hair growth, caffeine will increase blood flow to the scalp, bringing with it nutrients and all kinds of goodies.

Caffeine is not good for everything (nothing is good for everything), and it will slow down healing, so if you need wound healing and epithelialization, go for adenosine, not for caffeine. And remember that sleep is important to your body as a whole and to your skin, in particular, so make sure you limit caffeine use, in beverages or topically, to the early part of the day.

Caffeine is a great example of how silly is to try to distinguish between a natural and a synthetic molecule. Your body can’t tell whether the caffeine you are using comes from a lab or from coffee or tea. However, you may prefer to use tea or coffee because you like the smell or the accompanying chemicals.

Caffeine in DIY:

Use the grounds leftover from your espresso for a mask.

Used tea bags or tea compresses are excellent on puffy or irritated eyes. Make sure you use non-flavored, caffeinated tea for this purpose (Earl Grey is lovely but not for this particular use).

Add a hint of instant coffee to your body lotion to make it smell like a wake-up espresso.

Add some caffeine, pure or as instant coffee, to your shampoo or conditioner.

Caffeine in Skin Actives products

Eye cream with ROS BioNet and apocynin

Triple correction eye cream

Ultimate depuff eye serum

Hair care serum with ROS BioNet and apocynin

Nail serum with ROS BioNet and apocynin

De-puff concentrate

Green tea extract with caffeine

Oh, C. C., Jin, A., Yuan, J.-M., & Koh, W.-P. (2019). Coffee, tea, caffeine, and risk of non-melanoma skin cancer in a Chinese population: The Singapore Chinese Health Study. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2019.01.084

Siegel, F. P. (1978). Caffeine as an Adjunct in the Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis. Archives of Dermatology, 114(11), 1717. doi:10.1001/archderm.1978.01640230087033

 

DISCLAIMER: These claims have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.

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